March 26 – It’s Rising Star Month

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About the Holiday

Are you a rising star? Of course, you are! What is a rising star? It’s someone who shows great promise for the future. That sounds like you, right? Today, celebrate all of your special talents and knowledge that will take you far as you grow up. How far? Well, why not shoot for the stars? Get started on a new learning journey about those stars with today’s book.

Animals in the Sky

By Sara Gillingham

 

The weather’s warmer and the sky is dark. From your window or in backyard you can look up and find… what? Little ones know the sky is “filled with twinkling stars.” But do they “know that it’s full of pictures too?” Just like a dot-to-dot puzzle, “if you draw lines between some of the brightest stars, you can find animals.” These animals and other pictures made from stars have a special name: constellations. Youngest astronomers will shine while putting their scientific minds to work on the riddles that accompany each constellation and discovering the answer. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.

Riddle: “I have thick, shiny fur, and large, padded feet. I the winter, I like to take a long sleep in my warm den. What animal in the sky am I?”

If your little one guesses “a bear,” they’ll be grr-atified to learn that they’re right! In reward they learn about another well-known constellation that is part of the Big Bear.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Ready to try another one? Terrific! Riddle: “I have a tail that wags when I’m happy, a big wet nose, and a loud bark. What animal in the sky am I?” Anyone lucky to have one of these for a pet will know right away that connecting these stars makes the Big Dog. But readers will also discover the name of the that right where his dog tag would be is “the brightest star in the whole sky”––Sirius.

Five more clever riddles and facts about the Rabbit, the Lion, the Southern Fish, the Eagle, and the Wolf also await star-struck kids. A fold-out page at the back depicts ten more constellations named for favorite animals.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2020, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sara Gillingham introduces the youngest stargazers to twenty animal constellations that will pique their interest in astronomy and all things space related. Her lyrical riddles for seven constellations give kids clues to their names with evocative descriptions that not only lead readers to the right answer but reveal facts about the real animals in nature. Her stylish presentation of connected stars on a navy-blue background, as crystal clear as a cloudless night, allows little ones to easily see the basic formation of the constellation. The page then folds out, and the outline is superimposed with an image of the animal inspired by the shape. The third page goes on to show the two floating in a star-sprinkled sky along with another interesting tidbit of information.

With a gold-embossed cover and sturdy pages, Animals in the Sky is fun to share for nighttime star gazing and as a spark for lessons on astronomy, science, space, history, and mythology. The book would make a beautiful gift for new babies, baby showers, new little siblings as well as a go-to favorite for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1838660246

Older children will enjoy the stunning Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations, also by Sara Gillingham. You can read my review here.

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You can find Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877723

To learn more about Sara Gillingham, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Rising Star Month Activity

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Courtesy of education.com

Star Gazing Dot-to-Dot

 

What constellation do these kids see in the sky? Print and follow the dots to find out. Then color the picture! Then enjoy another page filled with star-studded fun!

Star Gazing Dot-to-Dot | Constellations Dot-to-Dot

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Older children will enjoy this printable Read the Stars Constellations Word Search

Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle | Read the Stars Word Search Solution

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You can find Animals in the Sky at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 27 – Visit the Zoo Day

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About the Holiday

After all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s nice to just take a relaxing outing with the family. What better place to go than the zoo, aquarium, or other animal park? Don’t let the cooler (or cold) weather deter you! The meandering paths, opportunities to learn about the world’s creatures, and chance to get some fresh air all add up to the perfect way to spend the day!

I Love You, Elephant!

Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros

 

If you’re looking for a joyfully uplifting story to share with your baby or toddler, you’ll find it within the magically changing pages of I Love You, Elephant. The sweet sentiments begin on the cover as a little monkey, holding a banana and surrounded by hearts, comes to visit Elephant. Open the cover and Elephant’s small smile at seeing her friend becomes a wide-open grin as Monkey tells her, “I love your long trunk! I wish I had a trunk like yours.” Not only does Elephant get this compliment, but she also receives the banana as a snack.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Monkey moves on and approaches Lion. “I love you, Lion,” Monkey unabashedly states as Lion glances in Monkey’s direction. Turn the page and Lion’s face lights up to hear how much Monkey loves his “shaggy mane.” The next animal to receive a visit from Monkey is Wildebeest, who looks a little skeptical while Monkey raises “thumbs up” fists to his head. But Monkey just wants to let Wildebeest know how much he admires his big horns. At this, Wildebeest gazes upward with a proud smile on his face. Zebra also gets a confidence boost that leaves her with a big grin of surprise.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

But what about Monkey? How do all the animals feel about him? It turns out they love Monkey as much as he loves them! What exactly do they love the most? Little ones will agree with Elephant, Lion, Wildebeest, and Zebra’s favorite traits about Monkey, and adults will love sharing the animals’ full assessment—“We love you just the way you are!”—with their kids.

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Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Adorably rounded faces that change with the turn of a page that sets in motion a “venetian blind” effect will delight little readers. The change in each animal’s expression reinforces the esteem-building result of Monkey’s spontaneous declarations of what he loves about his friends. The sweet examples in the story are wonderful springboards for discussion and are sure to inspire kids and adults to follow in Monkey’s footsteps and reveal what they love about each family member, their pets, their friends, their toys, their home, and, especially, about each other.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-love-you-elephant-happy-zebra

Copyright Carles Ballesteros, 2019, courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Carles Ballesteros cleverly includes a guessing game each time Monkey approaches a new friend. Through props and hand gestures, Monkey hints at what trait he loves best about each animal. Young readers will have fun trying to name what trait Monkey likes. With vibrant, yet soothing, colors and stylized flowers, vines, and plants, Ballesteros sets his story in a welcoming jungle landscape that children will want to visit over and over again.

A sturdy board book that will become a favorite of babies and toddlers, I Love You, Elephant! makes a heartwarming addition to home, preschool classrooms, and public library shelves as well as a terrific baby shower or new baby gift—for the baby or a young sibling.

Ages Baby – 3

Harry N. Abrams, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419738821

To learn more about Carles Ballesteros, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Visit the Zoo Activity

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Elephant Handprint Craft

 

This easy craft is fun for siblings to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room or a gift for mom, dad, or other family members.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-love-you-elephant-cover

You can find I Love You, Elephant! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 26 – It’s National Optimism Month

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About the Holiday

With its longer days, warmer weather, and blossoming flowers and trees, springtime puts us in a brighter frame of mind. There’s inherent optimism in seeing birds build nests and hearing the cheeps of baby birds, in shedding the coats and boots that weigh us down, and even in looking forward to summer vacation. Little ones love exploring during spring, just like Sammy in today’s book!

Sammy in the Spring

By Anita Bijsterbosch

 

Sammy watches out his window as the birds sing and feed their babies. Sammy wants to play outside and asks his stuffed horse Hobs to come with him. He puts on his socks and shoes then grabs his bike and puts Hobs in the basket. “Sammy likes riding on his bicycle. The flowers smell so good! He can see yellow, white, and pink flowers.”

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Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, 2018, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl.

After his bike ride, Sammy jumps on his scooter and fits Hobs into the basket on the front. They tow a little car behind them. Squirrels scamper in the trees, a family of bunnies peeks through the grass, and butterflies flutter in the air. One even lands on Hobs’ nose! Behind a bush, Sammy spies some sleeping hedgehogs. But the time for hibernating is over. “‘Hey, hedgehogs, wake up! Spring has come,’ Sammy whispers.”

When the hedgehogs wake up, they keep Hobs company while Sammy plays with his car. Then it’s time to drive the tractor and tend the garden. They meet three woolly lambs. “How sweet they are! ‘Baaa, baaa,’ the little lambs bleat.” Next Sammy digs holes in the ground and plants carrot, strawberry, radish, and cucumber seedlings. After all that playing and hard work, Sammy and Hobs go back inside to wash up and have a nice dinner together.

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Copyright Anita Bijsterbosch, 2018, courtesy of anitabijsterbosch.nl.

Little ones will be happy to spend time with Sammy and Hobs as they enjoy a spring day together in Anita Bijsterbosch’s adorably inviting story. The imaginative relationship that toddlers and young children have with their favorite toys is charmingly reflected here as Sammy includes Hobs on his bike, scooter, and tractor rides, shows him the lambs and hedgehogs, and gives him his own apple to eat at dinnertime. Bijsterbosch’s language is bright and cheery and paced with the same eager excitement of children playing and exploring.

Bijsterbosch’s bold images and brilliant colors are beautifully displayed in this large board book that cleverly uses full and half pages to show transitions in the action. Smiles abound as Sammy and Hobs meet birds, hedgehogs, lambs, bunnies, and even a tiny pink worm. Young readers are sure to smile too.

A joyful book that little ones will want to hear again and again, Sammy in the Spring would make a great take-along for picnics and other outdoor activities and a sweet addition to home and preschool libraries.

Learn more about Anita Bisterbosch, her books, and her art on her website.

Ages 2 – 5

Clavis, 2018 | ISBN 978-1605373676

National Optimism Day Activity

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Sunny Daisy Craft

 

This cheery springtime flower is easy for little ones to make with some adult help and can brighten any room!

Supplies

  • Small paper plate
  • Green straw
  • Yellow paint
  • Green paper
  • Tape
  • Small flower pot (optional)

Directions

  1. Paint a circle in the center of the plate, let dry.
  2. Make petals by cutting around the plate about every 1 ½ inches angled toward the center
  3. Fold some petals forward and some back to give the flower dimension
  4. Cut leaves from the green paper
  5. Tape the straw to the back of the plate
  6. Display your flower!

Picture Book Review